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Help Yourself (1950)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Joe the Burglar introduces himself to the audience in somewhat vague terms. He meets his mate, Charlie, in the local pub and they discuss their latest ill-gotten gains over a pint. At the opposite end of the moral spectrum, an elderly couple prepare to go shopping. Unaware of the imminent threat to their security, they leave the back door unlocked. Joe enters their home through the unlocked door and helps himself to anything of value. Afterwards, he pays a visit to the local pawn shop, where the receiver offers him poor return for his efforts. A suspicious policeman enters the pawnshop but Joe manages to evade detection. The elderly couple return home and are horrified to find their home ransacked and valuables depleted.

Milk and newspapers piling up on front door steps, unlocked windows, keys left handily under plant-pots, doormats or dangling on strings through letterboxes - all facilitate Joe's work. Conversely, security-conscious householders can make his life difficult. Secure catches on windows, mortice locks and no keys lying around are annoying deterrents. Despite the ups and downs of the job, Joe manages to eke out a living for himself.

One day, unbeknown to Joe, a man notices him entering a house through an open window. The man continues down the street and meets an elderly neighbour: one of Joe's earlier victims. The elderly neighbour convinces the man to report what he saw and the man runs off to find a policeman.

Back at the house, Joe is descending the stairs laden with suitcases full of booty when he hears a noise outside. He looks through the letterbox and spots a policeman approaching the house. The policeman pursues Joe through back gardens, building sites and busy London streets. Joe manages to jump onto a 59 bus to Brixton, but the bus is delayed when an elderly lady struggles to climb on board. Finally, to Joe's relief, the bus moves off. But the police officer is in hot pursuit. He finally catches up with the bus and Joe closes his eyes knowing what is in store. Later, Joe, in prison garb, is behind bars.

Some time later. Joe is back in the pub, having a drink with his friend Charlie. Undeterred by his recent confinement, Joe is preparing for his next 'job'. Charlie asks Joe where is going; with a leer and a wink to camera, Joe leaves him wondering.